How a Palestinian Terrorist Group Uses “Civil-Society” Organizations to Raise, and to Launder, Money

On October 9, the Israeli government formally designated six Palestinian charities as terrorist groups due to their support for the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP)—a move that met with predictable condemnations from the UN, the State Department, and self-styled human-rights groups. Since at least 2011, multiple PFLP operatives have been hired by the designated charities. Matthew Levitt assesses the evidence that these organizations act as fronts for the PFLP, which even the EU considers a terrorist group. Between 2011 and 2019, the PFLP murdered at least six people, in addition to countless foiled attacks:

Then, on August 23, 2019, PFLP operatives planned and detonated a bomb at a popular West Bank hiking spot, killing seventeen-year-old Rina Shnerb and wounding her father and brother. Two of the PFLP terrorists involved in this attack—one of them, Samer Arbid, charged with recruiting cell members and personally detonating the explosive—were employed by the Union of Agricultural Work Committees, one of the recently designated NGOs.

Among the arrested PFLP operatives [after the attack] was Walid Muhammad Hanatsheh, a finance and administration manager for the Union of Health Work Committees (UHWC), another PFLP-affiliated NGO. . . . Pulling at the threads of the two NGOs directly tied to PFLP operatives involved in Shnerb’s murder, . . . Israeli authorities began mapping out what they ultimately determined was a network of front organizations providing funds for the PFLP, day jobs and legitimacy for its operatives, and space for secure meetings.

Then, in March 2021, Israeli authorities raided the UHWC headquarters in al-Bireh, searched the premises, and seized files and computers, while also detaining three office employees. In early May 2021, Israel arrested four people affiliated with the UHWC. . . . The defendants were charged with activity in a proscribed organization, conducting illicit money transfers, and fraud, and accused of defrauding European donors by manipulating records to cover funds “in the eight figures” diverted from the NGO to the PFLP. Together, investigators said, the four “duped European donors using financial records doctored to hide cash diversions” to the PFLP.

[I]n a statement to Israeli police, one of the arrested UHWC employees explained that “the PFLP-affiliated institutions are interconnected and serve as the organization’s lifeline financially and organizationally, i.e., money laundering and financing PFLP activity.”

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Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: NGO, Palestinian terror, PFLP

As Vladimir Putin Sidles Up to the Mullahs, the Threat to the U.S. and Israel Grows

On Tuesday, Russia launched an Iranian surveillance satellite into space, which the Islamic Republic will undoubtedly use to increase the precision of its military operations against its enemies. The launch is one of many indications that the longstanding alliance between Moscow and Tehran has been growing stronger and deeper since the Kremlin’s escalation in Ukraine in February. Nicholas Carl, Kitaneh Fitzpatrick, and Katherine Lawlor write:

Presidents Vladimir Putin and Ebrahim Raisi have spoken at least four times since the invasion began—more than either individual has engaged most other world leaders. Putin visited Tehran in July 2022, marking his first foreign travel outside the territory of the former Soviet Union since the war began. These interactions reflect a deepening and potentially more balanced relationship wherein Russia is no longer the dominant party. This partnership will likely challenge U.S. and allied interests in Europe, the Middle East, and around the globe.

Tehran has traditionally sought to purchase military technologies from Moscow rather than the inverse. The Kremlin fielding Iranian drones in Ukraine will showcase these platforms to other potential international buyers, further benefitting Iran. Furthermore, Russia has previously tried to limit Iranian influence in Syria but is now enabling its expansion.

Deepening Russo-Iranian ties will almost certainly threaten U.S. and allied interests in Europe, the Middle East, and around the globe. Iranian material support to Russia may help the Kremlin achieve some of its military objectives in Ukraine and eastern Europe. Russian support of Iran’s nascent military space program and air force could improve Iranian targeting and increase the threat it poses to the U.S. and its partners in the Middle East. Growing Iranian control and influence in Syria will enable the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps [to use its forces in that country] to threaten U.S. military bases in the Middle East and our regional partners, such as Israel and Turkey, more effectively. Finally, Moscow and Tehran will likely leverage their deepening economic ties to mitigate U.S. sanctions.

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Read more at Critical Threats

More about: Iran, Israeli Security, Russia, U.S. Security, Vladimir Putin